Review: WrestleQuest climbs the ladder but can’t quite get the belt

Mega Cat Studios
Mega Cat Studios /

When WrestleQuest was first announced it caught everyone’s curiosity. Without much explanation, it showed a 16-bit inspired RPG world filled with classic wrestlers like Jack the Snake and Andre the Giant. All the while the game also had absolutely zero affiliation with the WWE, who, for lack of a better term, owns them.

The game promised a nostalgic look at old school wrestling with lots of deep dives and references for all to enjoy and, now that I’ve played it a good long while, it kinda delivers. Kinda.

The story of WrestleQuest follows two different protagonists as you move back and forth between the two, watching their stories unfold until they inevitably cross over. Their world is a world of toys so most of the wrestlers will range from action figures to LEGO men to stuffed animals and more.

One is Randy Santos, the “Machacho Man” who is so obsessive about “Macho Man” Randy Savage to the point where he prays to him before he sleeps every night beneath a massive poster of the man. He’s a simple sole who doesn’t believe that some wrestling might be scripted.

Wrestle-Quest-Praying /

The other is a character named Brink Logan who is a scripted wrestler who longs to be popular enough to be written into more stories. He sets out on the world with his cowgirl sister and…a humanoid moose with a hockey stick.

The two worlds couldn’t be more different but over time they find common ground. It’s a cute tale that takes place on both ends of the wrestling spectrum from a poor goofball trying to make his way up to a rich kid with influential parents just trying to get noticed.

I loved the story.

The combat is where I started to have some issue. While the game is a fun turn based set up with timed button presses, ala Mario and Luigi, and while it does add a bit of fun, helping to liven up the battles, at the end of the day the fighting is remarkably repetitive. The novelty of having the enemies being toys wears away often as well because, occasionally, enemies don’t make sense even as toys. There was one area where I just kept fighting four legged ice creature after four legged ice creature that all had this really nasty habit of exploding when defeated, damaging my whole party.

Mega Cat Studios
Mega Cat Studios /

And while there are many moves and options for how to get through a fight they don’t feel like they matter. For example, there’s the option to taunt. It’s supposed to make you use up a turn taunting in exchange for increasing your power and decreasing your defense temporarily. I stopped using it near the beginning of the game however because every time I use it it felt like it’s main purpose was to make the fight last one round longer. The buff and debuff was not noticeable. And while a lot of moves differ in the fact that they inflict different status conditions, the conditions hit so rarely I was mostly just picking attacks to do damage after a while. There never feels a need for strategy. As long as you fight every enemy between point A and point B you’ll have more than enough power to lay waste to that next boss just by using spamming the same special attacks.

I felt they definitely tried to have a complex system in place for the battles but MAN did it not feel like it ever mattered. All my attempts at strategizing did was make matches take a lot longer.

Another issue I had with the game was the sound design. It is very rare for a 16-bit throwback like this to feature voiced characters but every character you can get in your party (as well as many of the enemies) actually talk during the battle, yelling out moves and taunts and whatnot. But the sound is so incredibly muddled that I could rarely make out what the characters were saying over the music. Even when I turned off the music there’s ambient noises like cheering that still drowned it out.

The biggest issue I encountered, however, was literally game breaking. Several times, while playing the game, I’d choose a move and when the camera would zoom in…nothing. Everyone would just chill. The game was still in motion but the characters stayed in their spots. No menus, no way to escape, just me and the game’s somewhat poor autosave system.

The most heartbreaking of all came when I was in the midst of a mini-boss battle. I had taken out two of the three opponents and was about to deliver the last move and…well…here. You can see for yourself what happened.

This one sucked because I had to redo the entire battle but there’s some parts where a fight at the end of a dungeon will send me back to before I even entered the dungeon after a game breaking freeze. It’s completely demotivating.

All in all, it’s fun for what it is. A quirky love letter to old school wrestling with literal homages to legends like Junkyard Dog and the British Bulldog and many of the other dogs out there. But even the most dedicated fan is going to have a bit of a hard time sticking through to the end despite how good the story is because the game often feels like it’s actively fighting against you.

WrestleQuest (PS5) Score: 5.5/10

While WrestleQuest’s well written and heartfelt story combined with it’s fun 16-bit throwback sprites look like it’s getting ready for a Royal Rumble, the combat and the game breaking bugs get it launched out of the ring almost immediately. There’s potential here for a killer game here, but it needed to spend more time in gym before making it’s debut.